In defense of its program of targeted killings in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other parts of the world using drones and other bombing methods, the Obama administration has repeatedly claimed that its targets have been carefully vetted to make sure that they are high-value al Qaeda operatives and that their program is so precise that few civilians are affected.
The latter claim has been repeatedly debunked, with the latest charge coming just days ago that a NATO strike using American warplanes killed 11 Afghan children.
But now secret documents obtained by Jonathan Landay of McClatchy newspapers say that the program is not as precise as claimed and that the US has been targeting and killing people who are not affiliated with al Qaeda but instead are Afghan and Pakistani militants who are opponents of those governments. In fact, the US apparently made a deal with the Pakistani government that it would kill its opponents in return for being allowed to operate freely in its airspace. In other words, the US agreed to be Pakistan’s hired gun.
But when you make such deals, you become a de facto ally of the governments you are making a deal with. What seems to have happened is that the invasion of Afghanistan, which was originally aimed at eliminating al Qaeda, has slowly become transformed into a war on the side of the Afghan and Pakistani governments against their enemies. This is becoming uncomfortably reminiscent of the early days of the Vietnam war, when the US goal became transformed from supposedly containing Communist advances in south-east Asia to propping up the South Vietnamese government and eliminating its enemies, whoever they were. This does not necessarily mean that we are poised for another Vietnam but it does mean that we are likely making a whole slew of new enemies among those at the receiving end of the bombings, beyond just al Qaeda sympathizers.